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Ratings systems have screwed up the world. It seems everything these days requires a rating. Watch a show on Netflix? Rate it so that they can recommend more shows you might like. Read a book, rate it on Amazon because the more rating the more the book gets noticed and the better Amazon will be at recommending other books. Their recommendations, it turns out, are not particularly good. And don’t get me started on the five-star rating system.

I use Spark Mail for my mail client on my Mac Mini and my iPhone. I really like it as a mail client. Every now and then, the apps ask me, “Do you like Spark? Yes / No.” This reminds of junior high school when a friend would pass a note that read, “Do you like Katie? Yes / No. Circle one.” If you say “Yes” then you get asked to leave a rating on the App Store. I don’t know what happens if you say “No.” I’ve been too afraid to try. I fear that maybe the application will say, “Well, you’re no picnic either.” And then delete all of my email and shut down, never to start up again.

Spark Mail isn’t the only app to do this, just the most recent in a long line of apps that I use that express this occasional neediness. My understanding is the more ratings an app (or book, or a show) has, the more visibility it gets, and therefore, the more sales. This seems like a poor system to me. I don’t use an app because of a rating. I don’t read a book because of a rating. In both cases, what gets me to the product is usually word-of-mouth. A friend tells me about it. I read about it in article or magazine or, better yet, a blog post. I’m even pestered in apps where I’ve paid to use the app. If I’ve paid to use an app, there probably isn’t a need to ask, “Do you like this app?” I wouldn’t have put down the cash if I hadn’t.

Of course, the “Do you like this app?” question is another form the endless surveys that get sent out for just everything these days. When I take my car in for routine service, before I get home, I have an email asking me how my service was, and encouraging me to give them the highest possible rating since jobs and livelihoods are on the line. Uber and Uber Eats constantly wants to know how well things are going. With the latter, it’s not just the delivery service they want to know about, it’s the quality of each specific item I ordered. Recently, I opened a ticket with our city to have our old microwave oven picked up during trash collection. After the pickup was completed, I got an email asking how they did1. It’s all a bit overwhelming.

It got me thinking: what about the services that don’t ask for feedback. I’ve never gotten a message from the I.R.S. asking “Did you enjoy your tax experience this year?” I’ve never had a visitor to the doctor or dentist which was followed up by a request: “Did you like your recent colonoscopy?” And if so, would you leave a review, preferably, a 5-star review?

I stopped replying to most surveys a long time ago. My primary reason for doing so was that if I replied to every survey I got, I wouldn’t have time for things like, reading to my kids, going for evening walks with Kelly, or pretty much doing things I enjoy. It bothers me that some apps and companies survival depends on the reviews they get from customers, whether or not they are honest reviews, or someone rapidly filling out a 5-star rating just to get it over with. I wish there was a better system, but if there is, I’m not smart enough to figure out what it should be.

On a completely separate and unrelated note: Do you like this post? If so, you can click the “Like” button below. If not, well, [unprintable.] 😉

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  1. They came as they said they would, but by the time they got here, someone had already grabbed up the microwave, either for scraps, or some nefarious microwave experiment.

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